College Connect: Students Need to Adapt to Budgeting in College

Posted By Crystal Beasley

By John Hammel

Getting used to harder classes, making new friends and learning to live with a roommate are all reasons why many students find it hard to adapt to their first year of college. Another reason often overlooked is managing money.

Students who come from middle class backgrounds in which their parents are at their peak income levels often find it difficult to adapt to college life which can evolve into eating ramen noodles for dinner and living paycheck to paycheck from a part time job.

“Students are dealing with stuff like ‘I pay too much rent’, ‘I pay too much to go out to eat at restaurants’, ‘I’m having to take out loans just to make ends meet’ that’s really common for students,” said Matt Goren, an adjunct assistant professor in financial planning, housing and consumer economics at the University of Georgia. He helps manage the Aspire Clinic, which offers free financial advising to students and members of the Athens community.

Students often go into credit card debt to maintain a certain lifestyle and are generally bad at thinking long term for the future, according to Goren.

“I’ve definitely had to learn some better budgeting habits, I would sometimes blow [all my money] for the month the first couple weeks, especially during freshman year, and then not have any left for the last week,” said Grace Walker, a junior at UGA.

Students typically spend too much on housing and cars, which have a big fixed cost, according to Goren. At the Aspire Clinic, Goren often recommends students find more affordable places to live to reduce rent, which can take up a sizable percentage of a student’s monthly budget.

The client base for the clinic includes students who are mostly from middle class families who find themselves “in this moment in their life when they’re not making any money,” Goren said. “They kind of seem like people in poverty in a way even though they’re just in this moment in between middle class.”

Transitioning into college isn’t the only thing that can be dangerous to a young person’s wallet. Goren said young adults often spend too much money after they graduate and get their first job. Often the idea of making what seems like a large salary compared to what a typical college student has to spend can lead people to spend too much. They do not consider taxes, which deduct from overall salary, and this can lead people to make up the difference with credit cards.

“Someone who is very close to me has had that problem and now they’re managing a lot of credit card debt and it’s hard to watch,” said Walker.

John Hammel is a student at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

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